Prior to 2000, autism was not recognized as a disability by the government in India. When Merry Barua’s son was diagnosed with autism in 1984, there were no resources available for him. It was then that she dedicated herself to providing him with an education, as well as educating other children with autism in India. Barua’s program, Action for Autism (AFA), supports the Open Door School for children with autism and the National Centre for Advocacy, Research and Training. There are nearly four million people in India with autism, yet only 20 schools are currently serving this population, the first founded by Barua in the mid 1990s.
In 2007, Baura was a recipient of the Heartspring Award for Innovation and Creativity in Special Education and participated in the Heartspring Summer Session with five other winners, July 6-9.
As a result of her positive experience with Heartspring, Barua agreed to a sister school relationship with Heartspring, offering the opportunity for additional support through a cultural and informational exchange between Heartspring staff and the teachers at Action for Autism. This is Heartspring’s second sister school relationship, following Stars and Rain Education Institute for Autism in Beijing, China.
In 2010, Action for Autism sent Pankaj Tiwari to Wichita as part of Heartspring’s Teacher Exchange Program. Baura was thrilled with the training Tiwari received. “Thank you so much for having Pankaj over. The experience at Heartspring has had a tremendous effect on him. He is more charged up than he used to be. And happy and excited about all he has learnt. And trying to implement them in the classes here. Thank you for making this possible for our teachers,” she said.
“Having the opportunity to collaborate with Merry and Action for Autism significantly raises Heartspring’s ability to change the lives of children with special needs worldwide. She is a remarkable woman whose commitment to special education has provided resources and training to families in India and surrounding countries. Working together, along with other organizations in Europe and Asia, we can disseminate knowledge to those around the world seeking a better life for children with special needs,” said Gary Singleton, Heartspring President and CEO.
Action for Autism website: http://www.autism-india.org
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In 1965, Heartspring's founder Dr. Martin Palmer helped establish the All India Institute of Speech and Hearing (AllSH), formerly known as the All India Institute of Logopedics. This program was established to meet the needs of those individuals with speech and hearing handicaps in India. The foundation stone for the AIISH building was laid by the then President of India, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, on July 25, 1966. AIISH was made a Registered Society in October 1966, governed by an Executive Council; it was financed by the government of India through the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi. India Institute of Speech and Hearing Mysore
Since its inception, AIISH has made rapid strides in achieving the objectives enshrined in the Memorandum of Association. New units, sections, and departments have been added from time to time.